This post will ruin your property values
In the modern industrialized world, our society is a market society. The common way to complain about this is to say people are just too greedy and selfish, too focused on making and spending money to care about the things that really matter in life and the true meaning of Christmas. But I think that's one of the more shallow critiques of the market's functioning in our society. The property values complaint reveals one of the deeper issues.
What the market does in our society -- as any other hegemonic institution, like Church or The Party, would -- is enable us to turn responsibility over to it, to launder our prejudices and anxieties through its objective and inarguable logic. "It's not that I'm against having that in my neighborhood," we say, "but other people aren't so enlightened, and therefore they wouldn't want to buy my house, so my property value will go down. And I have a right to protect my property value." The market becomes an instrument of social control, a powerful reason to oppose improvements beneficial to those lower on the ladder but perhaps only diffusely (if at all) to oneself, an incorporeal IT defending our little piece of Camazotz.
And the thing is, we may be perfectly sincere. Slacktivist is too glib when he chalks up property value talk to the mobile-home-park-opponent's asshattery. If it were just asshattery -- an effect of a consciously antisocial personality disposition -- the cry of property values wouldn't be so common. What we're dealing with is a structural phenomenon. The modern market system makes it perfectly rational for many people, whose lives are dependent on the massive investment they've sunk into their homes, to bow to the prejudices of the masses (or at least assumed prejudices -- there's a serious potential for emperor's new clothes-type collective action problems in basing your valuation of something on how you assume others will value it).
The larger point here is that social dysfunction is not a matter of bad individuals doing bad things -- as easy as it is to slip into this way of thinking**. It's a matter of social structures -- patterns of human interaction -- that make it perfectly rational, even justifiable, for individuals to do things that are bad when taken in a broader perspective. So what's needed is people who can stand up and ask that we (collectively) challenge the way the situation is set up, rather than simply looking for the best way to navigate within it -- to do something irrational for the sake of morality.
*I wish we had a punctuation mark that would be something like a "paraphrase mark" or "ersatz-quotation mark" -- to be used to signal that something represents another's voice without implying that you're using their exact words (or even that they would necessarily approve of the interpretation you're making of their position).
**Many social theorists would blame this kind of thinking on the market or Western liberalism, but I think it's wider and more basic than that (indeed the causality may even run the other way). For that reason, I don't fall in with the camp that says simply getting rid of markets is either possible or a solution.